Vinny Del Negro and the Chicago Bulls continue to battle amid speculation about the coach’s job security. John Kuester, meanwhile, hasn’t helped his chances of ensuring a long tenure with the Detroit Pistons.
Del Negro and the Bulls look to end an eight-game road losing streak Thursday afternoon against the Pistons, who are trying to avoid nine straight defeats for the first time since 1994.
Chicago (12-17) took some of the heat off Del Negro, posting its best scoring game of the season in a 104-95 win over Indiana on Tuesday night. It was the Bulls’ fourth win in six games, but rumors surrounding Del Negro’s future persist.
Prior to facing the Pacers, general manager Gar Forman said it was against the Bulls’ philosophy to comment on reports that Del Negro will be fired. Forman only said that all evaluations would be made internally.
“My focus is the players and how to get them better and to play at the highest level possible,” Del Negro said.
Chicago’s poor play away from the United Center is one of the reasons there may be merit behind the reports. The Bulls are a loss away from their first nine-game skid on the road since Jan. 7-Feb. 2, 2004.
“There are no easy games for us. We know that,” Del Negro said. “We have to play solid for 48 minutes or whatever it takes.”
Chicago, though, appears to have a strong opportunity to end its skid. Detroit (11-20) is in danger of losing nine straight for the first time since dropping its final 13 in 1993-94, and the Pistons have lost four in a row and nine of 11 against the Bulls.
Kuester has had a tough time getting the Pistons on track in his first season as their coach. Injuries certainly haven’t helped, but Detroit’s struggles have continued even though Richard Hamilton(notes), Tayshaun Prince(notes) and Ben Gordon(notes) are back in the lineup following lengthy absences.
The trio was on the floor together for the second straight game Tuesday night in a 104-87 loss to New York.
“Our players have to understand that getting those three guys back doesn’t mean they don’t have to keep playing hard,” Kuester said. “Rip and Tay were out for six weeks, and they aren’t going to be at 100 percent right away, so we need to play with hunger and intensity. We aren’t doing that right now.”
Hamilton missed 13 of his first 14 attempts against the Knicks and is shooting 26.8 percent while averaging 15.5 points in two games back following a hamstring injury. Prince, who had been out with a back injury, has 11 points in his two games since returning.
Gordon had been nursing a sprained left ankle but is coming off a strong effort, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Gordon, who played his first five seasons with the Bulls before leaving as a free agent last summer, led the Pistons with 18 points in a 92-85 loss at Chicago on Dec. 2.